Is Jeff Horn Really a Paper Champ?


By: Ciaran O’Mahony

American boxing fans are yet to embrace Jeff Horn, mainly because they feel that he was gifted a unanimous decision over Manny Pacquaio.

ESPN commentator, Teddy Atlas, nearly lost his mind when Horn’s hand was raised in Brisbane, arguing that he had been rewarded “for trying hard” despite Pacquaio landing “the cleaner punches”. He was so incensed that he even asked Horn himself if he believed that the judges had made the right decision.

Most of his colleagues at ESPN shared his disgust, but former world champion Timothy Bradley thought the fight was a lot closer than Atlas’ 116-111 scorecard suggested.

It’s worth noting that both Atlas and co-analyst Stephen A Smith gave Horn absolutely no chance of de-throning Pacquaio in the pre-fight build-up. In fact, they were borderline disrespectful.

“I’ve got to admit, I don’t have much on this dude,” Smith stated.

Surely that’s a key part of his job as a boxing analyst?

After admitting that he hadn’t done any background research on Horn, he then questioned whether he even deserved a title shot.

Smith scoffed at Horn’s previous opponents, declaring that they “give new meaning to the term no-names. I mean, come on, we don’t know these people.”

Perhaps someone should have informed him that two of the fighters he listed- Randall Bailey and Ali Funeka- were former world champions.

In fact, Bailey was a two-weight world champion. Not bad for a no-name.

Were these fighters past their prime when they faced Horn? Yes. Had Horn faced particularly stiff opposition up to this point? No.

But they might have mentioned that he only had 16 professional fights under his belt.

Their ringside coverage followed a similar trend. Even when Horn had his moments, the ESPN commentators barely acknowledged them. Atlas was particularly dismissive, arguing that Horn wasn’t really landing anything when he had Pacquaio on the back foot. In contrast, he erupted when Pacquaio landed even glancing blows.

It’s fair to say that the coverage was biased. Horn did a hell of a lot better than expected and Pacquaio looked genuinely puzzled by his awkward style. How could that happen? Just an hour earlier, we were told that this fight was a joke.

It seems a little convenient that the same pundits who sneered at his chances prior to the fight described it as a robbery in the aftermath.

Perhaps they were trying to save face? After all, running with the robbery narrative meant they wouldn’t have to address their complete under-estimation of Horn. This way they could argue that they were right about Horn, it’s just that the judges were so corrupt.

In order to objectively assess the fight, we need to turn to other experts. The CompuBox punch stats don’t do Horn any favours. They show that Pacquaio landed 182 punches to Horn’s 92.

However, if you browse through the scorecards of various boxing writers and analysts, you will find that a number of them thought Horn was a deserved winner.

Britain’s foremost boxing writer, Steve Bunce, scored the bout 115-113 in favour of Horn and said “at the final bell Pacquiao looked like a beaten man and he was… Horn deserved his win, Pacquiao looked utterly dreadful for six rounds and hopefully the Australian will get the recognition he deserves — after everybody stops screaming hysterics about a robbery.”

Boxing Monthly’s Andrew Harrison said Horn won 116-113, while Sherdog’s Gary Randall (116-112) and Mike Fridley (115-112) said he won comfortably.

Irish boxing legend Barry McGuigan and Tom Gray of Ring magazine also felt Horn won the fight by a “wide” margin.
Even popular sports personality and die-hard Pacquaio fan, Skip Bayliss, gave the fight to Horn 115-113.
Then there were those who thought it was a draw. Quite a few, as it turns out.

– Brian Campbell- 114-114
– Brian Mazique- 114-114
– Bob Sheridan- 114-114
– Eric Raskin- 114-114
– Graham Houston- 114-114

It has to be said that the majority of the experts believed Pacquaio won the fight, some by a significant margin:

– Behind the Gloves 117-110
– Ryan Phillips 116-110
– Mike Sloan 116-111
– Dan Rafael 117-111

But many felt it was extremely close.

Kevin Iole scored the fight 115-113 in Pacquaio’s favour, but said “it was a 7-5 fight either way… you can’t complain about the [judges’] call.”

He wasn’t alone. Look how many boxing aficianados felt Pacquaio won by two rounds or less:

– Bad Left Hook, 115-113 Pacquaio
– Doug Fischer- 115-113 Pacquaio
– Boxing News- 115-113- Pacquaio
– Nigel Collins- 114-113 Pacquaio
– Gareth Davies- 115-113 Pacquaio
– Marcos Villegas- Pacquaio 114-113

With so many scores like the above, can we really call Pacquaio vs Horn a robbery? As Iole puts it, fights that only have a couple of rounds in them could really go either way. Especially when almost every round was so competitive.
Given how close it was, two of the ringside judges’ scorecards of 115-113 (Horn) are justifiable.

The majority of the experts think Pacquiao did enough to win the fight, but it could also be argued that he didn’t do enough to ensure victory.

Whether you think Horn won or not, the decision could hardly be described as daylight robbery and he certainly doesn’t deserve to be labelled a paper champ.

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